“Buttermilk” Banana Pancakes Made with Love

Oddly enough, my husband and I had our very first date on Valentine’s Day.  I know, I know, not the best day for a first date, but it worked out well I would say. Yet, because we are frugal, we never go out on the actual day of to celebrate. There are no 2-for-1’s and you have to battle the crowds for reservations … simply not our style.

My sweet husband had already given me a beautiful Valentine’s gift earlier in the week (he can never wait!), but I still wanted to make something nice for him on this special day … 

Well, it was a nice attempt anyway. You see, while I can come up with ideas that work out well and customize recipes nicely, my execution is often very, very poor.  I am super-slow in the kitchen, and lack some of those basic skills … like the ability to flip pancakes.  Yep, they turn out like mutants.  Sure, they taste good, but pretty they are not.

After attempting to make several “normal-sized” pancakes, I finally realized that dollar-sized were the only way to go for my bumbling spatula skills.  That is when my wonderful husband entered. I pointed at one, and said, “See, that one looks kind of like a heart!” He reciprocated, “An internal one maybe!” After we both had a good chuckle, he took the helm, and some nice little pancakes resulted …

Wheaty Banana Buttermilk Pancakes

That work he did as a teenage burger flipper definitely left him with some solid life skills. Though I must say, that every meal seems to turn out better when we make it together. We make a great team.

So, with a belly full of these pancakes we headed out for a hike in the desert hills to enjoy the sunshine and the first day of our 14th year together.

“Buttermilk” Banana Pancakes

Vegetarian, Vegan / Egg-Free (optional), Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Peanut-Free, Tree Nut-Free

This recipe was inspired by one that I saw on Recipezaar. While I love banana flavor, I am not big on pancakes with too much bananal; it is a textural thing.  So I just used 1 large banana, which equated to 1/2 cup of mashed banana.  Feel free to use more if you prefer, they should still turn out nicely.

  • 1 3/4 Cups Original or Unsweetened Milk Alternative (I used almond)
  • 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice
  • 2 Cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (can use all-purpose, a combo of all-purpose and regular wheat flour, or experiment with your flours of choice)
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Large or Jumbo Egg (see note below for egg-free)
  • 2 Tablespoons Oil (I used grapeseed)
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Honey or Agave Nectar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 to 1 Cup Mashed Ripe Banana (1 to 2 large)

In a large bowl, combine the milk alternative and vinegar or lemon juice, and set it aside for just a minute.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set that aside.

Returning to the milk alternative, whisk in the egg, oil, honey or agave, vanilla, and banana. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just everything is combined, but do not overmix.  A few lumps are okay (especially since you are likely to have some banana lumps!).

Heat a small amount of oil (maybe a teaspoon) in a large skillet over medium-low to medium heat (my stove can get a little too toasty on medium). Pour about 1/4 cup of batter (or 2 Tablespoons for those little dollars) onto the skillet for each pancake.

Cook until the bubbles break on top of the pancakes (check to ensure they don’t brown too much though), flip, and cook for another minute or two, or until lightly browned on both sides. Serve with maple syrup, berries, nut butter, or other topping of choice. Since I was cooking, I completely filled up on munching them plain as I was going!

Flash freeze any leftovers and toast them up for a quick pastry breakfast anyday!

Vegan / Egg-Free Option: Warning, I have not tried this, but am fairly confident it will work.  If you want to omit the egg, either use more banana (aka the whole cup) or up the milk alternative to 2 cups, and add a wee bit more baking powder (perhaps round it out to a full 2 teaspoons).

Yields about 2.5 to 3 dozen dollar pancakes

Gifts from the Kitchen: Gingerbread Granola

The baking bug hit me this weekend, so I decided to prepare some treats to give to friends this holiday season.  I was a bit torn on what to make since I would be shipping some of the items, when the weekly email from Meatout Mondays arrived suggesting holiday granola.  Brilliance!  Unable to stop with one flavor, I baked three different kinds, and while those were in the oven, I whipped up some truffles too!  It was an all-day venture for the amounts produced, but relaxing and fun. Now, onto the granola and a recipe …

Granola Flavor #1: I made my tried and true Home Baked Granola from Go Dairy Free, my cookbook/guide; it is a maple, cinnamon, raisin type flavor.  I stayed faithful to my recipe but opted to go all walnuts for the nuts.

Granola Flavor #2: Some slight modifications to my original recipe produced a delightful Vanilla Cranberry Almond Granola.  For those of you who have Go Dairy Free, simply increase the oats in the Home Baked Granola by 1/2 cup (to 4 cups) and use 1 1/2 cups of sliced almonds for all of the nuts.  Then, swap the maple syrup for honey (I did try agave nectar, but both my husband and I agreed it tasted a bit “off” in this recipe), increase the vanilla extract to 1 tablespoon, and substitute 1/2 t ground nutmeg for the cinnamon (or you can stick with the cinnamon if you like) and dried sweetened cranberries for the raisins.

Granola Flavor #3: My husband is not a ginger fan, so I have kept my desires for a ginger granola locked away in a vault. But, with the holidays upon us (and some ginger-loving friends), it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to break loose and finally create that Gingerbread Granola I had been dying to try out!  This really is an all new recipe, quite different from my traditional one, so I am very happy to share it here (recipe below).  Thus far, from us ginger lovers, it has received 2 thumbs up, and the smell is awesome when it is baking!

Gingerbread Granola

This recipe is Vegan, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Peanut-Free, and Wheat-Free. You can make it Nut-Free by using your favorite seeds in place of the cashews and Gluten-Free by using those trusty Gluten-Free Oats, if they work for you.

4 Cups Rolled Oats
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Coconut (shredded or “chips”)
1 Cup (5 ounces) Raw Cashews, Coarsely Chopped
1/2 to 2/3 Cup Light or Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice or Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/4 Cup Molasses
1/3 Cup Grapeseed, Extra-Light Olive, or melted Coconut Oil (or your baking oil of choice)
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Finely Minced Crystalized Ginger (optional) – I actually used the “uncrstalized” ginger from Trader Joe’s, which is still sweetened and gummy-like, but doesn’t have sugar crystals coating it; I liked the uncrystalized version best 

Preheat your oven to 250ºF (120ºC). In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, cashews, brown sugar, and the spices, stirring everything together until well distributed. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients, except for the crystalized/uncrystalized ginger. Stir this wet mixture into the oats and nuts, until everything is very well coated. Spread the mixture into one or two large, ungreased glass baking dishes (I use a 9 x 13-inch). Bake the granola for 60-75 minutes, checking in to give it a stir every 15 minutes. When done, transfer the granola to a large bowl and stir in the minced ginger, if using. Since the ginger will be a bit sticky, make sure you mix it up well to separate. Once cool, store it in an airtight container.

Nut-Free Option: Substitute the cashews with any combination of additional oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, soy nuts, and/or additional coconut.

My notes on baking time: I have tried turning up the heat to shorten the time, but without fail, it burns.  This slow bake process produces a better granola in my opinion, and you have much more control over the doneness.  If you use metal pans, I find that the granola browns much more quickly, so keep a sharp eye!

My notes on sugar: I use a very firmly packed 1/2 cup, but if you want a sweeter, more dessert-like granola, you can up it a bit.

As for the truffles, I made the Peanut Butter “Truffles” and the Bittersweet Truffles (vegan and soy-free too!), both recipes from Go Dairy Free. For the Bittersweet ones, I made a plain vanilla variety, some with chocolate coating and some with a dusting of both cocoa powder and powdered sugar.  But, I couldn’t resist making a “Hint O’ Mint” batch too.  I chocolate coated those and put candy cane bits on top to help identify them. If you want to try the mint version, I added 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of mint extract (I can’t remember which! But you can taste-test to your desired amount) and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the whole batch.

Note the bags of granola in the background … it was easy to get carried away!

Frugal Foodie Notes & Tips:

I am a big believer in homemade gifts, as that is what I would prefer to receive.  It just means so much more when you know the work and love that wen into it.  Of course, it also saves a bundle …

Granola Cost: Approximately $2.00 per 30-ounce batch

The granola made 3 10-ounce bags to give as gifts (or consume at home!).  I purchase the oats in bulk ($.99/lb for organic, $.69/lb for regular – I stock up on either when on sale), the coconut in bulk (usually $2/lb or less) and I get the cashews in a 1 lb bag (raw) from Fresh & Easy for $5 (I believe they are also a good price at Trader Joe’s). I then use a coupon at the store for $4 off $20 or $6 off $30 (often available on the Fresh & Easy website) to bring the overall cost of my shopping trip down a bit more. I do buy organic brown sugar at Trader Joe’s, as I find the taste to be far superior, and it comes in a ziploc bag, which is a must for the dry conditions here that immediately turn brown sugar into a rock. I stocked up on Grapeseed oil at Fresh & Easy when they were blowing out large bottles of it for just $3!  I also buy the spices in bulk and the vanilla at Trader Joe’s. I calculated the cost of each batch previously and it comes out to about $2 for the full 30 ounces, and trust me, home baked granola tastes way better (and way more fresh) than store bought!

Truffle Cost: Approximately $4.00 for 4 dozen truffles

As for the truffles, Fresh & Easy had a great discount on their big 1lb plus dark chocolate bars for $1.99 per bar (it is OEM’ed from Scharffenberger).  I made the entire batch of truffles (4 dozen!) for about $4 … and they were awesome!  Beat that Godiva!